Mesa teachers, students pack hundreds of meals ahead of teacher walkout

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Nearly one-third of students at Mountain View High School in Mesa are on the free or reduced meal program, and some eat their only meals of the day there.

On April 26, when the school’s gates will stay locked up because of the statewide teacher walkout, there's a real concern that those students could go hungry. 

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Schools in Crisis]

"I think I was around 5 or 6," said Jason Rodriguez-Ruiz, a freshman who remembers a time as a young child when his family did not have enough food at home and depended on free school lunches.

Now, he's helping make sure other students don't go hungry while schools are closed.

[RELATED: Arizona school districts release plans for teacher walkout]

"It was really important. Sometimes they were they only thing we had to eat," Rodriguez-Ruiz said. "I felt like I had the duty to go out and help others so they wouldn't feel like I felt.”

Teachers and students gathered in the school cafeteria Tuesday afternoon to assemble donations after math teacher Liz Leybeck came up with the idea. 

[RELATED: Valley businesses step up to watch students if teacher walkout forces districts to close schools]

"A group of teachers, we were just talking in the copy room and said, 'What can we do about this?'" said Leybeck. 

Word spread quickly, and soon Leybeck had a mountain of food. 

"I was continuing to receive donations at home last night, well into the night," Leybeck said. 

[RELATED: St. Mary's Food Bank helping families during teacher walkout]

Along with nearly 40 other teachers and students, Leybeck and Rodriguez-Ruiz stacked and packed nearly 300 bags. Inside each bag was enough to feed a family of four for three days.

The meals will be passed out to four Mesa School District campuses Wednesday. 

"Helping others is just something special," said Rodriguez-Ruiz.

[RELATED: Student calls teacher walkout 'selfish,' says it causes major disruptions to learning]

Teachers told Arizona's Family that they're not done collecting donations since they don't know how long the walkout will last.

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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